Payment plan customers can disregard cutoff notices

Published 10:44 am Friday, March 23, 2018

Franklin residents who signed up for the city’s February electric bill payment plan by the March 12 deadline can likely disregard any power cutoff notices they may have recently received.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, several cutoff notices were mailed on March 1 to residents who had yet to pay their utility bills for February, despite the fact that at the time of the mailing the city’s payment plan was still being offered. Martin explained that the notices were sent because, at the time, the city’s utility billing department had no way of knowing who would and would not take advantage of the plan by the deadline.

“The cutoff notices were sent before we had even ended the opportunity for people to sign up for the plan so some may have gotten cutoff notices,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about it as long as they’re complying with the plan.”

A Franklin woman contacted The Tidewater News on Wednesday afternoon and said that despite being on the seven-month plan she had received a cutoff notice on Monday. She said that when she contacted City Hall about the issue, she was told that the notice was system-generated and that she could disregard it. She then expressed concerns that she would continue to receive these erroneous notices in future months.

Martin explained that the city’s utility billing software is not set up to handle a temporary payment plan such as the one council offered.

As such, the city’s billing staff needs to manually access the utility accounts of each household on the plan each time there is a mass mailing from the department to prevent cutoff notices or late fees from going to these customers.

“We’re looking to see if there’s a way to [automatically] keep them from getting this notice,” he said. “It’s a staffing issue more than a computer issue. Manually dealing with 226 accounts every time we send out a notice, that’s a lot of work.

Martin also confirmed that to the best of his knowledge no one on the payment plan who was in full compliance with the plan had received a cutoff notice after March 12.

“If anyone inadvertently sees a late fee or delinquent fee or penalty or interest included on their bill, those will be taken off but if we miss one, they need to let us know because if they’re in this plan, they’re not going to have any late fees.

“They’re not going to get cut off, they just have to contact the office.”